Something that never fails to amaze me when cruising in Europe is how you can go to sleep one night in one country and be in another country when you wake.
We bid au revoir to Marseilles and buon giorno to Italy today when we arrived in Livorno, the port town closest to Florence, Tuscany and Pisa, my destination for the day.
Excited to experience my first shore excursion with Carnival, I made sure I had enough sustenance for what was a jam packed day by enjoying a breakfast burrito from the Blue Iguana Cantina.
Such a simple concept, yet so scrumptious, I make sure that jalapeño tortilla is piled high with Mexican scrambled eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and guacamole…a sure fire way to ensure my stomach is satisfied until I return to the ship later that day.
Shore excursions are run with such precision aboard Carnival Breeze and on this tour, passengers are requested to register in the Ovation Theatre on deck 3 before their number is called to disembark the ship and alight the air conditioned coaches parked right near the gangway.
It just doesn’t get any easier than that!
Being a solo traveller for this tour, I’m delighted to have a lovely lady from California sit next to me for the trip out to Pisa. She is travelling with her daughter and niece and is more than happy to share her experiences and life story with me, which is always a treat for me when travelling.
I revel in the stories she shares and am so impressed when she tells me of the planning and saving that has gone into the cruise, a present for her niece to congratulate her on graduating college.
We stop our chatter for a while to hear our tour guide Lorena’s explanation of what we are about to see in the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) and I smile every time the excitable "little" Lorena refers to us as "her family".
She’s the sort of tour guide you always crave. Passionate about her city and the history that surrounds it, Lorena takes us on a lyrical journey through Pisa before we even get off the coach.
A bubble of excitement erupts when we see the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time. Standing at 60 metres tall, it seems smaller than I imagined and the thing that strikes me the most is just how white it is.
Gleaming in the sunshine, the Tower entices my inner photographer to take flight…and my inner tourist to work out the best place to stand in order to take that all important photo trying to push the ancient wonder back up.
Shifting from the coach to a Universal Studios-style trolley, we are driven closer to the site that is quite busy on this Sunday morning.
We wander through the Campo dei Miracoli as Lorena shares her deep knowledge of history in that delicious Italian lilt, and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t purchase an extra ticket to actually climb the 294 stairs of the Tower with the summer heat beating down on us already.
Being a Sunday, we weren’t able to enter the Duomo di Pisa (Cathedral) but I ensured I gazed upon the gold line Lorena pointed out running down the facade which is believed to bring all who see it eternal love. Whilst our petite tour guide remains single after spending many hours gazing at it during tours, I silently hold out hope that it may bode differently for me!
Across the piazza from the Duomo di Pisa is The Baptistry which marvels us not only with its beauty but also its acoustics.
Designed in such a way that if you sing from the pulpit on the ground floor of the monument, the note lasts long enough (apparently 12 seconds) for you to sing an entire song with yourself and harmonise in such a way that it sounds like a full choir.
I resisted the urge to try it and allowed The Baptistry guard to do so instead.
It was a truly magical experience and we all enjoyed the break from the heat in the cool confines of The Baptistry.
Always a popular part of a tour, free time allowed us to take that all important Leaning Tower of Pisa photo (not 100 per cent happy with the angle but I guess it means I have to return) and shop at the markets lining the piazza.
We detour through the city on our trolley and return to the blissfully cool air conditioned coach for the 45 minute trip back to the ship.
Knowing that we have dinner at Italian specialty restaurant Cucina del Capitano, I try to refrain from having a Guy Fieri burger for lunch but I just can’t resist. How can such a simple thing as a burger taste so good?!
Cucina del Capitano is accessible via the Lido marketplace on deck 10 and, whilst open for lunch as a complimentary pasta bar, it truly comes to life in the evening when an array of delectable Italian dishes are served for the nominal price of USD$12 per person.
Designed as an homage to Carnival’s Italian Captains past and present, it is decorated traditionally with red and white checked table cloths and large bottles of wine, with the walls lined with photos of the Captains and their families.
With a menu featuring delights such as my personal favourites, Nonna’s meatballs and tiramisu, passengers can order as much or as little as they like all for the one affordable price.
Our waiters suggested that we share a variety of starters to sample the menu more thoroughly and we dig into arancini balls, a caprese salad that rivaled the one I ate in Capri the week before, meatballs and more before we realise that we might already be full.
As per the night before in Fahrenheit 555, this is only more of a challenge for my fellow passengers and I as we urge the starters to settle ahead of our mains.
Perhaps more Italian wine is the key?
I order the most popular dish on the menu for my main, Nonna’s meatballs. To say that I have never tasted meatballs so delectable in all my life is an understatement. Even the meatballs I sampled in Italy didn’t compare to these!
Suddenly aware that I was wearing white (bad move) I rid myself of all inhibitions and tuck in a napkin across my dress…this was home-style dining after all!
Just when everything seemed perfect, the dulcet tone of one of our waiters breaks the chatter and “That’s Amore” rings out through the restaurant.
What fun to have an entire restaurant singing and dancing along during dinner! That truly is “Amore”.
From an entertaining dinner to an spectacularly entertaining show, Michelle and I head to the Ovation Theatre where Playlist Productions was performing “The Brits”.
A high energy show featuring the state-of-the-art audio visual components we had already witnessed during “Motor City”, this production pays tribute to the British invasion.
From The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield to The Who, the talented team at Playlist Productions integrate those British favourites with high intensity dance routines and a romantic storyline that transports guests to a bygone era.
Utilising a mixture of animation on the large screens, the performers ‘jump’ into their cartoon selves throughout the production, whilst ‘real’ performers take to the stage to interact with them.
It’s a real hit and we can’t help but tap our feet and sing along to the hits before taking some of those Brit-inspired dance moves to the Liquid Nightclub…after all what would a night be aboard Carnival Breeze without a visit to my new ‘local’?
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A